Mental Health

19 Oct 2005 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister Assisting in Mental Health a question regarding her ministerial statement.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: We heard earlier today a statement from the Minister Assisting in Mental Health, and I quote a sentence in particular where she stated, ‘This year the government has significantly increased the funding for mental health, particularly in the non-government sector.’ She went on to reference a report that was released today by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and the Mental Health Council called ‘Not For Service’. There are comments contained in this particular report which actually show that South Australia has the lowest percentage expenditure of 1.9 per cent on non-government organisations. The report also states that ‘South Australia is perceived to have made little genuine commitment to support persons with mental illness to live effectively in the community’ and refers to the resignation of Mental Health Services director, Jonathan Phillips, as ‘the best indication of the ongoing crisis in Mental Health Services in South Australia’.

The former director was featured on the Insight program on SBS last week, as follows:

Jenny Brockie: Jonathan Phillips, you recently resigned as the head of the South Australian Mental Health Services. Why? Dr Jonathan Phillips: Well, I went to South Australia to bring about a process of reform. I believe in reform, big reform. I don’t believe in bandaid solutions and I guess I slowly came into conflict with small solutions for big problems. It does not work. One has to have the courage to go there and do the investment and build a new system.

My questions to the minister are:

1. In relation to funding for the non-government sector, what was the previous level of funding and what is it now?

2. Are the statements in the report that I have quoted correct or are they incorrect?

3. Will the minister comment on Dr Jonathan Phillips’ statement that he came into conflict with small solutions for big problems in this state?

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO (Minister Assisting in Mental Health): I thank the honourable member for her question. We are very much aware that the system in this state does need reform. We acknowledge that, and we do have a long way to go. You probably also neglected to quote, if you have read the report, that, according to the NMHR-2004, South Australia finishes third out of the eight states and territories in terms of per capita spending, and you probably also neglected to remember that we put a $25 million injection into our community services.

We have a lot of catch-up to do, and that is precisely what we are doing.We are moving forward with the mental health reform agenda, and we are sorry that Dr Jonathan Phillips decided to work outside that system. He decided to go and work as a clinician again, and we wish him well, but we now have a new director, Dr John Brayley, and perhaps you should be listening to some of the things he has to say. But, yes, we acknowledge that we have a lot of catch-up to do in this state, because the ball was dropped here.

The state dropped the ball for about 10 years, a whole decade; we did not move forward with evolving in our mental health reform in this state; that is a fact, and it is acknowledged in the report. As I said, we are doing some good things.We are putting a lot of money into mental health that your government did not do, and I think you also need to acknowledge that. We have started a good rebuilding program, with $110 million. We have some good recurrent funding as well, and we should also remember that what we need is some cultural change.We are working with our staff to ensure that we put people at the centre of care in this state.

I just reiterate that Monsignor Cappo and the Minister for Health have written to Dr Sev Ozdowski. I am sure that very many members in this chamber would remember Dr Ozdowski, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commissioner, requesting him or his nominee to be part of a high level reference group established by the board to undertake this work. So, really, we know that there is a lot of catch-up to do in this state, and we are working towards that.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I have a supplementary question. When Jonathan Phillips said that he came into conflict with small solutions, is he referring to prior to or after the budget? If it is after the budget, when will we see some actual reforms that will fix the problem?

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: We have seen a lot of action since the state budget in relation to fixing the problem.

I honestly do not know what he was referring to. As I have said, we are sorry that he has decided to work outside the system rather than within the system.

The Hon. J.F. STEFANI: I have a supplementary question. I recognise that the minister may not have this information, but can she provide the figures for mental health for 2003-04, 2004-05 and 2005-06 for the non-government sector?

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: I will get a report for the honourable member and bring back a response. As I have said, obviously, there has been an injection of funds in the budget, and we are working with community groups.